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Blue Devils end winless season

A second half rally fell just shy for the Blue Nation in last week’s season finale.
Sullivan Central played spoiler to senior night festivities with a 20-12 win over the Unicoi County High School football team on Thursday, Oct. 30, at Gentry Stadium.
The Blue Devils finished winless on the year while the Cougars wrapped up their year with a 3-7 record with two other wins against South Greene and Volunteer.
“We were still in the ballgame,” Blue Devil head coach Glenn White said. “We’re about to score. Our quarterback really came on – Hunter (Hensley) did a lot of good things there on the last two drives.
“We love our seniors, we’re going to miss our seniors but they went down fighting. That’s what Blue Devils do, they never give up. I’m proud of them. I told them they are winners. Every one of them are and I’ll never forget them.”
Cougar tailback Ethan Krtausch (19 carries, 129 yards, TD) helped prop give Sullivan Central the lead in the second quarter on a 3-yard run to go up, 7-0, following the point-after attempt with 10:04 remaining in the period.
The Blue Devils milked the clock in the first, including a deep pass from Hensley (7-16, 161 yards, TD) to Brett Lemmon but were unable to punch the ball in after a Robert Martin field goal moved the score at 10-0 at halftime.
It was a wild ride for Hensley after assuming the starting job in the fourth game of the season after an injury sidelined Cody Jack Rogers. After learning a new offensive scheme, the junior finished with a career high night to end the year.
“I just tried to take what I learned in the summer and build off that,” Hensley said. “We had a tough summer. I know the record doesn’t show but we made a lot of improvements during the year and our passing game really showed up.”
Blue Nation only needed one play to get on the scoreboard in the second half when Nick Fender (4 catches, 90 yards) hauled in a 54-yard pass from Hensley to cut the score to 10-6.
Central responded with a 1-yard plunge from quarterback Trey Pope (18 carries, 78 yards, TD) with under six minutes to go in the third. Pope finished 5-13 passing with 67 yards through the air.
Not to be outdone, Fender took the ensuing kickoff to the house to cut the lead within five points, 17-12. It was redemption for the sophomore after a fumble on an earlier punt.
“Boy can fly, can’t he,” White said. “He muffed a punt. He felt bad and told him to shake it off but they kicked it right to him there. They challenged him and he’s a threat. We’re looking forward to having him back – along with the rest of them.”
Fender finished with over 180 all-purpose yards.
“I was worried about the guys coming at me,” Fender said. “But my blockers held their blocks. That’s what led the to touchdown.”
Central tacked on a late field goal before the Blue Devils were able to drive from their own 20-yard line to the Cougars red zone.
Hensley hooked up with Michael Howell and Fender on the drive but Central would score a sack on fourth down to ultimately seal the game.
The final drive will serve as a measuring stick heading into next season, Fender said.
“It’s going to be about working out on the offseason,” he added. “We’re just going to work on getting better. I’m going to miss the senior group. Luke (Fronckoski) really worked with me to help me get better.”
It was also a key showing by the defense, White added. The Blue Devils were able to get key stops from the likes of Warren Shelton, Jacob Smith and Chris Johnson to stall any chance of a Cougar route after Central received key field possession by early turnovers.
“I thought the defense played well,” White said. “They bent but didn’t break and you could see each week the defense got better. I credit coach (Willie Douglass) for that. He’s done a great job with coach (Jordan) Cooper and coach (Chuck) Sutton.
“On the offensive side, coach (Drew) Rice and (Jason) Hensley opened it up. We’re going to add to it, make it better and show a better product in 2015.”
Warren Shelton and Erik Arnett led the defense with seven stops against Central. Ty Whitson and Justin Nelson added five stops each. Dylan Lewis, Leon Dover and Johnson each added four during the game.
Luke Fronckoski, who finished the year with over 750 yards on the ground, led the Blue Devils rushing with 12 carries for 21 yards.
UCHS met six teams on their 10-team schedule that made the playoffs (seven before the David Crockett postseason ban after their season finale with Daniel Boone).
An 0-10 record can be a bit misleading for the Blue Devils heading to the offseason, White said.
“We stayed competitive,” White said. “Our kids battled through adversity all season long and did not back down. After our three week dead period, we’re going to hit the ground running and get on the weights. We have the foundation … we’re going to take the competitive attitude and build a winning program here.”
A three week dead period can’t be over quick enough, Hensley added.
“We’re all going to work harder to get better next year,” Hensley said. “I’m a senior next year but Kendrick Williams is a junior quarterback next year and if he deserves the spot, he deserves it. It’s going to be like that for positions. We’re going to work hard and our coaches are doing a good job to help us improve.”
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The UCHS football banquet is tentatively set for Nov. 16 at the high school gym at 3:30 p.m. Cost for admission is $5 while children nine years or younger will get in free. The banquet will feature an award ceremony for the team.